Background Checks: Setting the Record Straight 

If you’re in the market for a new job, chances are good that a pre-employment background check will be involved. It’s important to set the record straight about three common myths about employment screenings, including the following:

Myth #1: A Background Check Gives an Employer an Excuse Not to Hire You

Truth: If an employer requests to run a background check on you, that means they are very interested in hiring you. First, background check services cost money, and no company can afford to run mindless checks on every applicant that walks in the door; if you’re worth the cost of a background check fee, rest assured that you’re on the top of the list of potential hires. Second, hiring managers must be careful about using personal information obtained during a background screening to make hiring decisions and there are many compliance hoops to jump through. Companies will only proceed to this step with candidates they intend to hire.

That said, it’s important that the information you provide to your potential employer is correct and complete. They are running the check to confirm your identity, education, and experience and to see if you have any red flags in your past like a criminal record. Come clean about everything up front so the background check confirms your story.

Myth #2: My Criminal Record Means I Can’t Get a Job

Truth: No doubt, previous criminal charges and convictions can make securing employment more difficult. However, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has imposed strict guidelines against disqualifying applicants purely on the basis of a criminal record. In order to be prohibitive, your record must be relevant to the job; for example, if you’ve been convicted of multiple DUIs, you can be denied jobs driving delivery trucks or school buses but not office or retail work.

Employers need to consider many factors when reviewing and evaluating a criminal record including the responsibilities of the job, company policies, the time elapsed since the offense, and the seriousness of the offense. If you have a criminal record, it’s best to discuss it openly with your potential employer before the screening is done so you can have the chance to explain your circumstances and why you should be considered for the position.

Myth #3: There’s Nothing You Can Do About Errors on Your Report

Truth: It’s not uncommon for background checks to contain errors. The data collection process is complex and relies on a number of different variables; if just one of those is off, a search can easily bring up erroneous results. First, it’s important for you to provide good information at the beginning of the process; the better the inputs, the better the outputs. Second, if a background screening brings back incorrect information, employers are legally obligated to give you the chance to make corrections. Work with the employer and the background check service provider to correct the mistakes and get the problem resolved. You can also run a background check on yourself to check for problems; you’re entitled to one free report each year.

The Bottom Line

Be aware that you have a number of rights when it comes to how your personal information is used in hiring decisions. You need to provide written consent before the check is run, you must receive a copy of your report, you must be notified of any problems prior to adverse actions, and you must be given the opportunity to correct errors and provide explanations. It’s your information; take responsibility for it.


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